Denver (2-1) faced the Sacramento State Hornets (2-1) in the first game of a home-and-home non-conference basketball series. The Hornets were led by first-year head coach David Patrick who had a team that matched up with DU’s size and athleticism. It was an evenly played game as Denver led by three points at the half. Denver had an 8-point lead on a Tevin Smith jumper in the paint at 11:46 of the second half but the Hornets reeled in the Pioneers. For the game, the Hornets matched Denver’s points in the paint, 42, but outscored Denver 15-4 from three-point range. Ultimately, that eleven-point gap was tough to overcome. DU’s Tommy Bruner had a chance to tie the game from beyond the arc with 2.7 seconds remaining but his shot missed the mark.
Denver led five minutes into the game on a Lukas Kisinus layup, 13-11. A lay-up by Sac State’s Callum McRae with 10 minutes remaining knotted the score 20-20 as neither team could create separation. Justin Mullins, Tyree Corbett, Tommy Bruner and Touko Tainamo all chipped in over the next five minutes to give DU a four-point lead with five minutes remaining in the half. Touko Tainamo sunk a bucket with 46 seconds remaining for DU but a jumper by Cameron Wilbon cut Denver’s lead to three points at the half, 36-33.
Denver seemed in full control the first ten minutes of the second half. A fast break bucket by Zack Chappell cut DU’s lead to 5 points midway through the final half. Chappell struck again with a three-point make at the five-minute mark to give the Hornets the lead, 62-60, their second lead of the second half. Sac State extended the lead, capped by a bucket by Akol Awein at 1:12 to give the visitors a 6-point margin. Denver came back on the Hornets, capped by a pair of Tommy Bruner free throws, cutting the lead to 2 points, 71-69, but that is as close as DU could get. Following a missed Hornet free throw, Bruner had a chance to tie the game on a three-point heave at the top of the arc but it missed the mark as Denver fell, 73-69.
There were a number of positives to take out of the game against a good opponent. Tommy Bruner had another solid game at the point with 17 points and 5 assists on the night. Freshman Justin Mullins chipped in with 11 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals. Tyree Corbett had 10 points and 7 rebounds in yet another all-around performance. The Hornets keyed on Tevin Smith who had a rare off night with 5 points and 2 rebounds. DU shot 76.5% from the free-throw line and won the turnover battle 15/13. Overall an excellent test for DU, facing a big physical team that is very similar to a number of the Summit League teams they will face.
The Pioneers get another shot at Sacramento State on the road on December 7th. Next up is a road trip to the play Idaho State this Friday at Pocatello at 7pm MT.